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Arroz con leche 101- Making this global dessert simple

Posted on October 14 2014

Arroz con leche 101 is my attempt to convince the world that this is the easiest and best dessert you can make.  My mother makes this randomly, that is to say that to her this is sometimes a meal, snack, or dessert at any time of the day any time of the week. She also likes to put it in bowls and hide it around the house. A habit that I am sure arose when there were 16 people living in her house. She likes to enjoy it at room temperature, which means she had to hide it because we would eat it as soon as she was done making it. 

You can create a personalized recipe by determining a few things: What are your favorite spices? What consistency do you prefer? How sweet do you want it? What texture do you want? These are all easy things to control.

GRAIN. The texture of your rice pudding will depend on which grain you decide to use. Brown rice gives you the most texture and some added nuttiness while quinoa feels like a million little marbles in your mouth; fun, but not for everyone. Arborio will create the most luxurious, rich pudding while long grain/short grain white rice is the classic choice.  And since I just moved to Brazil, we have to add tapioca balls. Avoid basmati rice or variations because the rice will not release enough starch to make for a creamy pudding. 

rice pudding arroz con leche

SPICES. Choosing a spice is easy. Think about your favorite flavors and create that blend.  All spices should generally be used whole because this will create a bolder flavor; ginger is the only I spice I grind but would still recommend whole if you have on hand. The spices will get boiled with water or milk then strained before adding the rice. You can leave the vanilla bean since it’s easy to remove but all other spices should be strained. After you make the recipe several times you will know how much you want to increase or decrease certain spices.  I am not a dried fruit fan in my desserts but feel free to throw some raisins, orange peel, candied ginger, shredded coconut, or nuts in your rice pudding. These types of additions happen once it has finished cooking.  Although, a Colombian friend once told me that adding the raisins while it boils, and removing them before eating it, adds a specific flavor to the dessert. 

spices for arroz con leche rice pudding

SWEETNERS. Regular cane sugar is good enough for all recipes but adding the different sweeteners can add some layers! Also, you have the option to use stevia if it’s your thing and adding the unrefined options like piloncillo, rapadura, or chancaca takes you to a different dimension. You have full control and I suggest you play with your options.  

 arroz con leche sweetners rice pudding

LIQUIDS. My favorite liquids for arroz con leche are whole milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. The combination always produces a rich luxurious dessert. But I usually only buy milk for making desserts therefore if I ever have a craving for this dessert and don’t have milk, evaporated milk or powdered milk is a good alternative. Evaporated milk is a must for every Latin kitchen pantry in the USA. Some fun liquids to play with are cream of coconut,  coconut milk, goat’s milk, cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), dulce de leche and media crema. Media crema is very thick, more than heavy cream but slightly softer than sour cream; it can be used in savory or sweet food.  And obviously you can make arroz con leche with only water. 

Arroz con leche must knows:

  1. Stir constantly to avoid sticking, burning and spilling. The more expensive your pot the less it will stick.
  2. You can substitute the sweetener for any other sweetener; sugar, sweetened condensed milk, agave, stevia, cane sugar or honey to taste. It is meant to be a sweet dessert; most traditional recipes are too sweet for me but you can adjust accordingly.
  3. You can always substitute all or part of the milk for heavy cream … this will result in a more heavenly experience.
  4. If you wish to multiply the recipe, a 1/4 cp of uncooked rice makes one normal serving but 1/2 cup uncooked rice is very filling and usually what I have per serving.
  5. Pot type and heat level will affect cook time. Low to medium heat is the safe way to go. Patience. High quality all clad pots lessen sticking.
  6. The rice will soak up a lot of liquid AFTER you remove it from the heat and especially if you are going to refrigerate to eat cold.  To avoid dry rice, turn heat off when it still has liquid left, it will be absorbed as it cools. Most of the time I add an additional cup of liquid (milk or heavy cream) once I turn it off. If it looks too wet simply heat a little bit more.  You can decide your own consistency. My mom prefers dry (I can slice it into squares) and I prefer creamy like a custard.
  7. Sometimes wooden spoons add a wooden spoon taste to the rice; remove spoon from pot when you are not stirring or always use metal or plastic.
  8. Pre-soaking the rice reduces cook time which saves fuel, reduces risk of burning or spilling and decreases the stickiness of the rice. Although I wouldn’t consider reduced stickiness a positive thing. If you want to reduce cook time; soak rice for 1-2 hours then reduce liquid by 25%. Instead of using 2 cups of milk, use 1.5 or even 1. You can over cook rice; it can get mushy.  A good idea is to use a thick dairy if you want the lessen cook time by soaking. Instead of using 2 cups of milk, use 1.5 cups of heavy cream. Or this would be a good place to use the media crema if you know what it is.
  9. 1/4 cup of uncooked rice = 1 cup of arroz con leche. This will vary depending on how much liquid you allow the rice to absorb.
  10. Generally whatever your measure of rice; use half of that measure for sugar. Example: 1 cup of uncooked rice can be sweetened with 1/2 cup of sugar. 10 cups of uncooked rice can be sweetened with 5 cups of sugar.
  11. Any recipe of arroz con leche can be consumed cold or hot. My Mexican family prefers it both ways,  I only like it warm but know that Puerto Rican’s only like it cold. If you want it to maintain creamy once it cools it must look very, very loose and creamy when you are done cooking it. The rice will absorb the liquid while it cools. If you happen to get a very dry rice once it has cooled, put it back on the stove and add some liquid until it’s incorporated then cool again. You need to rehydrate the rice. 

Basic arroz con leche recipe here

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